SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Here are three things we learned through two rounds of action at the PFIWestern.com Invitational presented by Bass Pro Shops this weekend.
1. Nance comes up big on weak night for Top 10
Cody Nance rode Hou’s Back for 89 points to win Round 2 on a night where only two of the seven qualified rides came from riders ranked inside the Top 10 of the world standings.
“Heck, I cleared my head and tried to ride him jump for jump and fortunately that worked out, because he came out backwards, I guess,” Nance said. “He came around the left and into my hand, kind of a little wild and Western and bucked real hard.”
Nance was able to rise up on his rope in the final seconds and re-adjust his seat to earn the ever-important points for 8 seconds of hard work.
“It was all reaction,” he said. “I was just trying to get my hips to my rope and get back over the front. My rope kind of slid on me a little bit and kind of got me out of shape there at the end.”
Nance, who is ninth in the world standings, heads into the final day of competition at JQH Arena second in the event average behind L.J. Jenkins– the only rider to cover both his bulls this weekend after kicking off the second round with an 86-point showing on Bono.
“I had a really good bull tonight. Usually he’s a little more trickier than that,” Jenkins said. “He hadn’t bucked in a while, so maybe that is why he was a little soft. I will take two more like him tomorrow. Springfield is always a really tough event and just to be one bull up on everybody, that just makes it a lot better and a lot less stressful come Sunday.”
Matt Triplett was the only other rider inside the Top 10 of the world standings to earn a score after he rode Rawhide for 84.5 points. Triplett sits in eighth place in the event average.
Josh Faircloth (87.75 points), J.W. Harris (87.5) and Guytin Tsosie (87.5) are the other three riders in the Top 5 in the event average heading into Round 3.
Another ride or two by Nance, who has a BFTS-high three event wins this year, on Sunday could prove worthwhile in his attempt to gain some ground and become a stronger contender in the world title race.
“It is crunch time. We are in the fourth quarter of the season,” Nance said. “Everybody is trying the same. You have Fabiano (Vieira) with a hurt shoulder and he is riding the tar out of them. You got Mike (Lee) and he is getting by. Heck, all of these guys are doing great and I am just thankful to be up there with them.”
Lee was bucked off by Big Time in an exhibition ride after the second round, when a rider was needed to volunteer to get on the bull to help conclude the ABBI competition.
2. Riders in bottom half of world standings rise up
The top riders in the world standings may have had an off night on Saturday, but a couple men fighting for the remaining spots to qualify for the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals came to ride.
Faircloth finished second in the round with his highest-scored ride on the BFTS since riding Whiskey’s Rebel for 88.25 points in San Antonio during the 2011 season.
He rode Missouri Boat Ride for 87.75 points on Saturday, and entered the weekend ranked 36th in the world standings. The additional 90 points he earned for finishing second in the round has him bumping up to 34th in the world.
Tsosie, who began the PFIWestern.com Invitational 38th in the world standings, ended a 0-for-10 slump by conquering Spotted Velvet for 87.5 points. It has been a long time since the rookie walked out of the arena without shaking his head in disappointment.
No. 40 Tyler Harr rode Earl for 79 points in the second round.
3. Oliviera has no answers for current slump
Valdiron de Oliveira said his current slump is starting to weigh on his mind. Oliveira was bucked off in the second round by Strokin in 2.01 seconds, and he is now 3-for-29 since the beginning of the Ty Murray Invitational in March.
The 35-year-old has recently looked far different from the man who used to be a perennial world title contender. Oliveira had finished inside the Top 5 of the world standings five years in a row prior to last year’s 16th-place finish in the world standings, but that was partially due to missing the first seven events of the season because of back surgery.
The rider currently ranked 16th in the world just shakes his head and admits he is completely dumbfounded by his struggles. He said that his left knee that he injured (partially torn PCL) at Last Cowboy Standing also isn’t an issue.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “I feel great. I feel healthy. My body is good and everything is great. But, I don’t understand. I try to fix it every week.”
Oliveira has compared video of his rides from previous years to 2014 and has noticed that he is riding extra tight instead of loose. The problem is he can’t find an answer to get himself to relax inside the bucking chutes and isn’t sure what is the cause behind it.
“I think I am putting a bunch of pressure on myself,” Oliveira said. “When you put pressure on yourself you can’t ride. You need to be relaxed to ride and that is my problem right now.”
He admitted that his confidence is “so-so,” but he knows what would help the most.
“I’ve got to go 2-for-3 to get my confidence back,” he concluded.
Dr. Tandy Freeman did not issue any additional injury updates on a rather quiet night at JQH Arena.
Markus Mariluch (torn right biceps) was the only rider that attempted to ride in Round 1 who had to withdraw from competing in Round 2. He suffered the injury on Friday night attempting to ride Jo Jo.
Harris (concussion/lower back) and Scottie Knapp (right ankle) both competed in the second round and neither were able to make the 8-second mark. Harris, who was assisted off the dirt by sports medicine, was bucked off in 3.14 seconds by I’m Your Huckleberry. The four-time PRCA champion had said before the event that he was feeling better from his Friday night wreck, but that his shoulder did feel pretty sore.
Knapp was dispatched by Yo Yo in a quick 2.17 seconds.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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